How to Talk to a Science Denier
Can we change the minds of science deniers? Encounters with flat earthers, anti-vaxxers, coronavirus truthers, and others.
“Climate change is a hoax—and so is coronavirus.” “Vaccines are bad for you.” These days, many of our fellow citizens reject scientific expertise and prefer ideology to facts. They are not merely uninformed—they are misinformed. They cite cherry-picked evidence, rely on fake experts, and believe conspiracy theories. How can we convince such people otherwise? How can we get them to change their minds and accept the facts when they don’t believe in facts? In this book, Lee McIntyre shows that anyone can fight back against science deniers, and argues that it’s important to do so. Science denial can kill.
Drawing on his own experience—including a visit to a Flat Earth convention—as well as academic research, McIntyre outlines the common themes of science denialism, present in misinformation campaigns ranging from tobacco companies’ denial in the 1950s that smoking causes lung cancer to today’s anti-vaxxers. He describes attempts to use his persuasive powers as a philosopher to convert Flat Earthers; surprising discussions with coal miners; and conversations with a scientist friend about genetically modified organisms in food. McIntyre offers tools and techniques for communicating the truth and values of science, emphasizing that the most important way to reach science deniers is to talk to them calmly and respectfully—to put ourselves out there, to meet them face to face.
Praise for How to Talk to a Science Denier
“Timely and founded in sound psychology, How to Talk to a Science Denier is vital reading for fraught times.”
—Foreword Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
“This book is a necessary tool in an age that depends more and more on people trusting and believing in science in order to meet the simultaneous challenges posed by the long-term effects of epidemics, climate change and post-truth misinformation.”
“Well-argued . . . provides ingenious insights throughout.”
“Overall, this book presents an authoritative and entertaining account of science denial and how we might fight it, moving smoothly between theory and the author’s personal experiences of talking to science deniers.”
—Engineering & Technology
“When attempting to bridge the gap, start with compassion…. McIntyre’s enterprise is hopeful, and his book is littered with productive conversations.”
—The Washington Independent Review of Books
“In this splendidly written, highly engaging book, Lee McIntyre unpacks the flawed reasoning behind science denialism and helps us understand why some people find it so compelling. Most importantly, he explores ways to help people connect with genuine scientific reasoning by listening respectfully, discussing science patiently, and fostering interpersonal trust. A must-read for anyone who needs or wants to talk with a science denier.”
—Elizabeth Anderson, John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women’s & Gender Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
“In an era of widespread science denial, Lee McIntyre is the voice of epistemological sanity. In this wonderful book, he addresses a pressing question of our age. His answer is both astute and humane. As he emphasizes, we must learn how to talk to science deniers and, in doing so, remember our common humanity. This is an important book. Read it!”
—Quassim Cassam, Department of Philosophy, University of Warwick
“Lee McIntyre is one of our strongest voices combating pseudoscience, superstition, fake-news, and alternative facts that have become disturbingly prevalent in recent years. It has become evident that facts alone are not enough to convince science deniers to change their minds. What does work then? McIntyre reviews the literature on what we know about the psychology of belief and what strategies work, and recounts his many colorful adventures talking to deniers. Destined to be a classic in the philosophy of science.”
—Michael Shermer, Publisher Skeptic magazine, Presidential Fellow Chapman University, author of The Moral Arc, Heavens on Earth, and other titles